I doubt very much if any young man growing up in Adams in the past 40 to 50 years did not know who Willard "Beaver" Bard was. In particular, young men of that span of years who played sports.
Willard Bard, who passed away earlier this week at age 79, was born with a rather considerable overbite. His teeth stuck out over his mouth, giving rise to his nickname.
There were plenty of people who knew that nickname, but didn’t have a clue as to his real name. But very few people called him "Beaver"; most of us gave his nickname a nickname and called him "Beave."
Beave was an extremely affable guy. He worked for many years for the Adams Parks Deptment I actually first met him when I was working summers at the Adams Highway Deptment.
He was meticulous about the fields on which local teams played. I later learned how much pride he took in prepping the field. It showed.
I remember being struck by the fact that, while he looked a little funny, with his potbelly and protruding teeth, very few people seemed to make fun of him. Despite his appearance, he was held in high regard by almost everyone.
It was Beaver’s first lesson to me: Appearances can be deceptive. Certainly, this individual’s appearance was.
Later, I ran into him again. Beave was the coach of several teams. He coached Little League, the Police Athletic League and the Adams Basketball Church League. According to his obituary, he coached for 55 years, a prodigious feat.
I don’t know if he was a master of strategy. He certainly knew basketball and baseball well enough. But I remember playing against his teams and being impressed, even as a kid, how supportive he was of his players; how much he clearly wanted them to do well.
More importantly, Beave was a guy who loved the games he coached, but not so much that a bad call or a bad play would upset him. If a player committed a foul, or generated a turnover, he would sigh softly and it would be forgotten. I’m not kidding when I say that, as a kid who had had a few screamer coaches, I appreciated that.
And he was a good loser. He believed very much in being gracious. If he lost a game, he would shake the hand of his opposing coach and, as trite as it sounds, he would have a smile on his face and wish the other guy good luck. That also impressed me.
In my opinion, Beaver Bard was one of the most influential people I ever met growing up. I don’t believe I’m alone.
Most of the guys I know from Adams who were athletes in my day are gracious in both victory and defeat. They have never been afraid to shake the hand of the winner. They don’t have temper tantrums if they lose.
This is certainly not all the doing of one funny-shaped little man. My hometown had other great coaches and great mentors when I was growing up, but Mr. Bard is one of those who stand out.
In his later years, he earned several accolades, including the naming of the Little League Baseball Field in his honor.
I’m sure he enjoyed that praise. I don’t believe I’ve ever known anyone who loved the athletes he oversaw as much as Willard "Beaver" Bard did.
To reach Derek Gentile:
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